It’s In Their Hands Now

I called Curtin to confirm that they had received my application and apparently they had, but it was sitting on a pile of paperwork untouched. After convincing them that it was indeed important (and had to get to the degree co-ordinator for advanced standing approval before the next study period began…), I think it should have been passed on to Matt for review/approval. He should receive it early next week hopefully.

Ahhh bureaucracy, how we love you!

Now I just have to wait and hear from Matt, hopefully to get the good news that I can have 12 units of approved advanced standing into the degree!

You Never Learn Until It’s Too Late

Everyone — please back up your files regularly!

I have been stupid enough to be running my machine over the last couple of years without keeping regular backups of my information. The other night, my hard drive failed, and it appears that I may have lost a lot of the information which I had on there, including some financial details, personal photos, volumes and volumes of personal documents and notes, plus a large amount of work which wasn’t stored anywhere else except on my machine.

I am working on a Sony VAIO laptop as my main system at the moment, so I am now planning for the imminent purchase of a new desktop system, I think will be the deciding factor in me getting around to arranging it all. For those interested, I’m going to keep records on the entire process, starting…

Step 1: I flipped over my laptop and unscrewed all the screws I could see (later I realised that was a little excessive, but anyway…). I then turned it back the other way and lifted off the wrist-pad, where the touchpad lives. Under here, I located the hard drive, and carefully removed another screw (bottom-left corner when looking from above), and then removed the drive. I took off the mounting rails either side of the drive and transferred them onto the new drive which I purchase (exactly the same one – 20GB). From there, I put the drive back in, screwed the corner screw back in, replaced the wrist-pad and then screwed all the screws into the back again. I then put it back on it’s docking station (with CD drive) and started it up with the Windows 2000 startup CD. Then off we go with installing everything from scratch.

Pleeeaassee… let me be able to read the drive which I have now removed from my laptop. I have arranged to get the adapter required so that I can mount the 2.5″ laptop drive in a standard 3.5″ desktop disk bay. That will then allow me to attempt to access the drive’s contents from my old desktop computer (which I’ll have to take out of mothballs for the occassion!). I’ll post updates regarding my progress, but I hate to say that I am not holding my breath about getting anything off the drive, not after hearing the faint tinkle of what sounds like the drive head flopping around inside the drive…

First Notes On My Search System

View an Acrobat PDF document (13.6Kb) with more information regarding the search system

I wanted to get some information out here so that people could see what I am working on, and indeed what is running this site’s search facility. The icon to the right will take you to a PDF document (13.6Kb) which gives some more details about the approximate process flow of the search supplements, as well as a database schema of what’s running the best bets, variants and related terms.

Another O’Reilly Article On The Table!

I’ve been emailed by the author of an upcoming O’Reilly article for techo’s regarding my work with a more complete search system. He wants to discuss my integration of Best Bets, a controlled vocabulary and a normal, keyword-based search engine. There’s not really a lot to say right now, but I’ve emailed him back saying that I am definitely interested, so we’ll see what happens.

Interest From SearchLoggers Group

I’ve had some initial interest from some of the other members of the searchloggers group in the work that I am doing with the search system on this site. The integration of a controlled vocabulary, best bets and a stand-aloone search engine backend appears to be of interest to others as well ๐Ÿ™‚

My hope is that this can be developed into a stand-alone product that could be wrapped around nearly any search system, simply adding to the functionality of said search system. So far things are looking good, but only really for something written in PHP. I would need to add other options for systems written in Perl, C etc.

In the near future, I will be posting database schemas, some notes on implementation and other bits and pieces about how I am attacking the whole process. Keep an eye on things if you are interested ๐Ÿ™‚

Who’s The Idiot?

Well, me apparently. Purely by chance, I found out that the postage charge for a local letter here has gone up to 50c per letter. I clicked that I mailed in my application for enrollment using a 45c stamp that I still had, apparently from before they changed the rate!!!

I don’t know for sure if this means that my application hasn’t got there yet, so I emailed the guy who is supposed to be looking at my advanced standing (Matt), but he says that he hasn’t received it yet.

Now I have emailed LSN/CEA/OLA@Curtin to find out if it made it to Curtin at all, but who ever knows with that place – I’ve worked there, and I know how easy it is for mail (etc!) to go missing and never be seen again. *Fingers Crossed!*

webpad 2.1 Underway

I have started the planning/initial development on version 2.1 of webpad. This will be mainly a bug-fix and consolidation release, while also bringing webpad up to a point where it will operate with the new default settings on PHP installs.

Once webpad 2.1 is released successfully, work on v3.0 will begin shortly thereafter, which will be a major code-revision, giving webpad a much more stable backend and coding structure, as well as a number of new features to improve its functionality and usefulness as a web-based text editor. I am also considering splitting the code-base into a “Personal Edition” and “Enterprise Edition” (names not finalised!) which would allow me to ficus each version on either single or multi-user environments (respectively). This would also most likely introduce a pricing structure for the Enterprise Edition (Personal Edition will remain free for the taking). I’ll keep you all up to date.

Welcome To The Hive

OLA uses a product called “The Hive“, which is produced by a local, Perth company called HarvestRoad. The Hive manages the content and delivery of all online courses from OLA, so I will be interested to see how successfully it manages to do this. I know from experience that managing an online course isn’t particularly easy to do well.

When I worked at Curtin Uni, I worked in one of the many divisions which were pursuing online education as a feasible option. The area that I worked in (SMEC) actually delivered all of their postgraduate degrees in an entirely online fashion. We actually ended up using straight, plain old HTML because we needed to get everything on CD-ROM as well as the ‘net, and it turned out to be easier that way. It was an interesting time and taught me some good stuff about working with the limitations of certain technology, dependant on your users.

I’ll be sure to keep you all posted on my experiences within the Hive ๐Ÿ™‚ (which is now called the HarvestRoad LCMS for those interested).

So — PortaBlosx

I was thinking, blosxom is very cool, but I’d like to be able to do a few things in regards to getting something on my blog when I am out and about;

  1. Be able to post from anywhere (i.e. I want a web-based interface of some sort)
  2. Be able to post from my Palm (I built AvantBlog for this reason, why not have AvantBlosx? ๐Ÿ™‚ )
  3. A nifty little dialog-thingo allowing me to make quick posts (very similar to the Palm version) would be nice as well, something I could bookmarklet easily.

So I had a look around, and the first one appears to be pretty much available already, care of PHPetal. After that tho, there doesn’t appear to be a simple, clean interface available that could be hacked to use on Palm and as a simple little bookmarklet dialog.

My idea is basically to just provide the person with a very simple interface, at this stage it would consist of a select box containing a recursed listing of their blog directories, and a textarea where they could enter their post. As per blosxom, the first line would be used as the title, and I would either make up a filename based on the title, or just generate one from a timestamp.

What do you reckon?

PHPetal is pretty cool

I think (can’t remember already – it’s been a long day!) I found this one care of a lead from the blosxom mailing list, but here’s a cool, web-based application which operates very similarly to the “PortaBlosx” idea that I am still thinking of working on. It’s called PHPetal and basically just provides a one-page interface to posting to your blosxom-powered blog. It looks pretty funky, although it’s a bit “heavy” for converting to a Palm version I reckon, so I will keep thinking about my own, simple version.

And Then It Was Live!

Yes, I finally got my new site live, and it all appears to be working, including the new and fancy, blosxom-driven “Notes” section.

This has taken quite a bit of work to get live, but I am quite happy with the way that things have turned out. The main addition(s) that I want to make at this stage are writebacks on my Notes section, so that I can hear what you guys out there have to say about things, rather than this being a 1-way only information device ๐Ÿ™‚

Keep an eye out for the ability to comment on my postings here in the nearish future (hopefully!). When I get it working, it should also allow for trackbacks, so you can register comments on my posts on your own blogs if you like

Praise Be To Matt

Wow – I wasn’t expecting that. Unless it was a typo of some sort, this is what Matt had to say about my enrollment in the BArts(Net Studies);

I am the person who assesses these ๐Ÿ™‚ – basically, I’d be looking at 8 units (out of 24) advanced standing – how does that sound?

and I was thinking – “bugger, that’s less than I was hoping for, so I trudged along to read the next message which said…

Just remembered – since you have units at Curtin already…12 units (which is the maximum I can give)…

and now, funnily enough, I have a very large smile on my face! This is excellent! With only 12 units remaining, I might still be able to finish by the end of 2004!

blosxom rocks!

blosxom is the amazingly simple, yet endlessly powerful blogging application written by Rael Dornfest which is now running most of the DentedReality website.

I have made some pretty schmick “helper” scripts (even if I do say so myself), which allow me to manage a blog using directories, and you can link straight to a directory, and it will show you the blog entries via blosxom in that dir.

The Silence of the Asilomarians

After joining the AIfIA (and paying the membership fee), I have been somewhat disappointed with the response I received from the CELIA idea.

I signed up for the IA Library project with AIfIA, and have suggested that perhaps CELIA could be done as a part of that project, but have received no response. Zero. Nada. Zip.

I think Karl and I are going to start planning it out a little, hopefully I will be able to knock together a simple-ish system which can handle the stuff we would be working with, and that would allow us to get started. I think it’s a really valuable thing, and something that perhaps isn’t as important is the US, because IA is more established, but it sure is important here, where I have met all of about 3 people who even took a punt on what Information Architecture is!

Putting blosxom to REST

The plan with these helper scripts that I am writing is that blosxom will be able to operate in a “REST-like” environment. This means that directing a browser to a URL like /blogging/blogger.com/ should load the blog entries in that directory (if it is within a defined blog-tree).

It’s working so far, and I have added in the option of linking to ‘rss.xml’ within any directory in the blog-tree to get an RSS feed of that level/category/sub-blog. Sweeeet. Next up is to eliminate the permalinks needing to use the blosxom.pl script in the URL (i.e. so that archives don’t have to link to blosxom.pl at all).

webpad Needs Some Love

webpad has been sorely neglected, and it is starting to show. I have a bad feeling that it won’t work on a default install of PHP anymore, and there are a number of reported bugs related to the install and configuration process which have done anything *but* go away with time. I think it is getting close to time that I need to re-write the core code for little-ole webpad, and try to bring things up to scratch.

There are also a number of improvements I would like to make to the system at the same time, but priority one will be to bring all of the existing code up to a certain level, then move forward to a new version.

And so… the requirements (as far as I am concerned) for version 2.1 public are;

  1. Re-write of backend code to standardize style/syntax etc.
  2. Ensure that all code is 100% compatible with a default installation (no register_globals being the big one here)
  3. Switch all of the Blogger.com operations over to using the new, inbuilt XML-RPC functions in PHP, rather than the external library it currently uses.
  4. Ensure that all Blogger.com operations still work (their API has been all over the place, so who knows??)
  5. Iron out any bugs in the install process to ensure that the app can be installed with a minimum of fuss.

With that out of the way, I will then look towards a 3.0 release, which should look something like this;

  1. Inclusion of ODBC, PostgreSQL and possibly Oracle plug-ins for authentication
  2. Streamlined setup/install and user management (*large* improvements planned)
  3. Improved support for authentication methods other than WIXAS
  4. Much better file management (directory creation, renaming, deleting etc)
  5. Integration with Blogger Pro, Radio and MovableType if possible (expanded to include template management and better post management)
  6. Ability to load a file from the filesystem via direct request (i.e. http://webpad/?file=/path/to/file.txt) assuming permissions allow it and it’s within the user’s home dir.
  7. Much better mult-user support
  8. Commercial licenses will attract a modest fee (in the vicinity of $USD15), while personal use will remain free

Ho Ho Ho…

Christmas morning and I’m on the computer already… sad? dedicated? driven?… bored. Still working away on the new site, so hopefully it will be done before too long.

Interesting question from a friend last night regarding how much time I spend on my own projects & websites – he asked me to explain “why you’re putting in so much work into it”. My answer wasn’t that thorough or convincing, but, I believe that there are a number of things you can get out of running a website like mine.

  1. Honing of personal skills: building this site gave me a chance to work out a complex CSS/XHTML layout, while integrating a dynamic content management system and honing a search system!
  2. Giving something back: considering how much the web community has given me in the form of code, knowledge, skills, tips & tricks, this site is a minor return-favour
  3. Educating people: building information on this site gives me a focus point where I can send current and potential clients to find out about IA, usability and general user-centred design.
  4. Publicise my projects: making a site which people like to come back to gives me a place where I can promote my projects and get them out in the public
  5. Raise my profile: no point beating around the bush, one of the reasons I maintain an active website is that it raises my profile in the web community/industry. These days anything that can do that for you without spending a truckload of money is a Good Thing.

Oversight

When I thought I had “finished” the mainline code for RESTxom, I forgot that I hadn’t thoroughly tested the RSS code (allowing you to request rss.xml from any topic and get a correct feed from that point ‘down’). Turns out it doesn’t work properly… double-slashing problems and whatnot, shouldn’t be too hard to fix hopefully, but darned annoying in the meantime.

So off I go to fix the RSS code, then have to fix it in the archives as well (which are working now!)